Thursday, February 17, 2011

That GOP Pollockapalooza

Jackson Pollock's "Mural" on the walls of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport with Sean O'Harrow, now director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and Pamela White, former interim director, in the foreground (Lee Rosenbaum/Culture Girl).

Let’s face it: Most Iowans are members of the hell-Maude-I-could-do-that-with-spray-paint school of art appreciation when it comes to anything other than Norman Rockwell. Still, it seems a little extreme to force the Board of Regents to sell Jackson Pollock’s 1943 “Mural.”

That proposal gained momentum in the always-entertaining GOP-controlled Iowa House this week after approval 2-1 by a subcommittee that will move it to the full House and likely approval there . You just never know what these guys will get themselves up to when they take a week off from gay bashing.

“Mural,” considered by some to be the finest modern painting, period, was a 1951 gift of the late Peggy Guggenheim to the University of Iowa Museum of Art, intended as a learning tool for Iowa art students. Its current value is estimated at $140-150 million, making it perhaps the finest and most highly valued work of art in the state. It is entirely possible, should we decide to sell it, that the Guggenheim Foundation would mount a court effort to get it back.

Republicans have hatched the sale idea allegedly as a way to fund art scholarships but most likely as a way to take a slap at the University, Iowa’s finest (fair disclosure --- I’m a double-dip alum). Republicans tend to favor Iowa State, in Ames, where students still must dodge cow pies as they polka around the campus. And where Norman Rockwell is king.

Sale of the Pollock came up in 2008, too, proposed then by quixotic Regent Michael Gartner after Iowa River flooding devastated the U of I arts campus (the Museum of Art still is years away from reopening; the Pollock and other works, on display at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport).

Governor Branstad has taken the sort of insightful and well-informed stand on the issue that we’ve come to expect from him: “I really haven’t researched that,” he reportedly said. “I’ve heard there are different view points on that and I really haven’t taken a position on that.”

Democrats are likely to derail the proposal in the Senate as the few Republican lawmakers who are secretly appalled by the excesses of their dim-witted fellow partisans run for cover, hoping not to be noticed.


For diversion on Monday, another Iowa House subcommittee cleared the way for consideration of a bill that would grant full personhood rights to fertilized eggs (human, not the sunnyside-up variety). The target here is Iowa’s middle-of-the-road laws regulating abortion. Again, Senate Democrats are likely to derail it.

Over in South Dakota, a proposal cleared last week by the House Judiciary Committee there that would have made homicide in defense of a fertilized egg justifiable has been put on hold, probably a good thing when you consider the potential for mass slaughter outside the womb.

Now I’m fine with abortion debates, so long as they’re open only to women. And whatever they decide is fine by me. But I’ve never understood why anyone would even listen to what a person with a penis has to say on the issue. Oh --- I forgot --- sexual assault both actual and virtual is a man thing.


My favorite exchange came in the Senate during discussion of Iowa’s preschool program, which Ottumwa Republican Mark Chelgren compared to Nazi, Soviet and Chinese Communist indoctrination. As it turns out, he really didn’t mean exactly what he said --- or so he says --- and actually has enrolled all four of his own children in preschool programs.


Although Iowa lawmakers have taken a break from attempts to make adultery a purely heterosexual pastime, there has been activity elsewhere.

Civil union legislation cleared the Hawaii senate Wednesday and now goes to the governor for expected signature. The California Supreme Court prolonged the Proposition 8 wrangle there when it agreed to decide if proponents of it may defend it in federal court, something the state has declined to do; and the chances appear to be improving in Maryland for legislation allowing same-sex marriage.

Over in Indiana, the Legislature gave first-round approval to a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions --- and so it goes.

In Britain, it is likely now that the government will allow (but not require) civil unions --- including same-sex unions --- to be performed in houses of worship (keep in mind, the government controls the church there, if it chooses to do so); and is giving strong consideration to removing the legal distinctions between civil unions and same-sex marriage for LGBT people.

The culture wars just go on and on.

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